Aglukkaq takes environment post as Ottawa seeks to win over First Nations, U.S. on resource projects – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – July 16, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has moved his cabinet’s lone aboriginal minister into the sensitive portfolio of Environment as the government works to win crucial First Nations’ support for new pipelines and other resource-development projects.

In the shuffle announced on Monday, Mr. Harper demoted former broadcaster Peter Kent to the back benches and appointed health minister Leona Aglukkaq to the critical post, where one of her first jobs will be to finalize long-promised federal regulations covering greenhouse-gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.

The Conservative government is under great pressure to show it is serious about battling climate change and protecting the environment, even as it aggressively pursues energy and mining development.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who has been the government’s point man on its so-called responsible resource development approach, remains in the post he has held since entering Parliament two years ago.

Ms. Aglukkaq will be expected to take on a more prominent role as the government tries to persuade United States President Barack Obama that Canada can be counted to address emissions from the oil sands as he considers whether to approve TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to transport Canadian bitumen to the U.S. Mr. Kent had promised the regulations would be released by mid-year, but the government is still consulting with industry and provincial officials to reach an agreement.

The new minister will also have to face critics at home, including many First Nations communities, which opposed the recent overhaul of environmental-assessment rules and argue that the government is sacrificing environmental protection in its quest for development.

Many aboriginal communities have opposed projects such as Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline because of fears about oil spills and other impacts, although native leaders also acknowledge the need for resource development to provide jobs and an economic boost for their communities.

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